Sunday Sermon for February 27, 2011, Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings: Is 49:14-15; 1Cor 4:1-5; Mt 6:24-34
In the Gospel reading today our Lord tells us that we cannot serve two masters; then He makes it clear what the two possibilities are: God and mammon. Most often we think of mammon as being money and, to some degree it is. However, in the very next sentence our Lord explains the point by speaking of the concerns people have about what they will eat, drink or wear. This being the case, we can see that mammon is a broader concept than just money. Perhaps it would work just as well to substitute “self” for mammon.
One might suggest that there are only two ultimate possibilities of whom we can serve: God or the devil. This is certainly true, but even people who are trying to serve the Lord are going to be tempted to focus on themselves. This is especially true when it comes to the areas our Lord mentioned: food, drink and clothing. These are basic needs that all of us have and, let’s be honest, things that garner a lot of our time and attention.
If, when things are going well, the basic necessities of life demand so much of our focus, what will happen if things go badly and these basic necessities are not readily available. Just think about what we have seen in the past weeks of political upheaval and natural disasters. In the Middle East, there were no stores open and no shipments in to the cities to provide food for the people during the riots. A huge storm began to drop snow across 30 of the United States and grocery store shelves were emptied within a day as people stocked up and hunkered down.
I mention this because we see that things could change literally overnight and, like it is for the people in northern Australia, it could last for a long time. So, what happens if food, water and clothing are not easily obtainable? Will we look to our own devices to try to figure out what we will do or will we look to God? Jesus tells us that God knows what we need. He provides for the birds of the air and for all of the animals, none of which are His children and whose dignity is immeasurable lower than our own. For these reasons, Jesus tells us, God will take care of us. Even in the first reading God says through Isaiah that even if a mother could forget the child of her womb, He will never forget us. What a beautiful guarantee.
Although we have this guarantee that God will never forget us, the question we have to consider is whether we will forget God. While we will quickly object that we would never do such a thing, the fact is that most us of forget God with a fair amount of regularity. It is not that we deny Him, but we take our focus off of Him and put it on to ourselves. This will be a problem if things ever get so bad in our lives that we are truly hungry, thirsty or naked. We do not know what we might do. This is why St. Paul tells us, in the second reading, that we cannot pass judgment on anyone. We do not know all of the circumstances of the lives of the people we judge and, we would have to admit, that if I were in that person’s shoes I might be doing what he is doing or, probably, even worse. Jesus tells us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all of these things, food, water and clothing, will be given to us. Another guarantee!
St. Teresa of Avila taught her nuns that the best way to ensure that they would be hungry is to worry about how or where they would get food. On the other hand, she told them that the best way to ensure that they would have enough to eat is to focus on God. If we take our focus off of God (if we forget Him for a time) we are left to fend for ourselves. If we pay attention to the spiritual life, seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, then we do not have to worry about ourselves. Our focus is on God and His focus is on us. He will give us what we need.
Of course, this does not mean that He will necessarily give us what we want, but if we put our faith and trust in Him, we will always have what we need. We do not need to worry about how, what or when He will provide. Just keep your focus on Him and He will take care of everything else. That is a guarantee!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.